Opening day excitement builds for CARSA


Ali Lee 

(ISN) – Seven years ago, the potential users of the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA) sat down with members of UVic’s Facilities Management to discuss what they imagined the new facility would look like and do. Now the 17,700-square-metre building is ready to open on May 1 and Vikes Recreation Health and Fitness Programmer Amy Allen can’t wait.

“I’m so done with imagining, let’s just get in there,” she says enthusiastically. “It’s breathtaking. It just has so much going for it.”

The pursuit of excellence in every aspect of human performance is integral to UVic’s vision for CARSA. To recruit and retain outstanding students, faculty and staff and to help them reach their highest potential, the centre builds on the university’s historic strengths as a home of champions. Champions include our elite athletes, our students who value active living and wellness as part of their well-rounded UVic experience and individuals from our broader community.

Allen is not alone in her praise for the first new athletics and recreation facility built at UVic in 40 years. Consulting project manager Nazir Jessa oversaw the largest construction project ever on campus, which at its peak employed 250 workers. While admitting there were “hiccups and challenges” during the multi-year project “when you see the building’s potential and the amount of good use that will come out of it, it’s a job well done.”

CARSA’s state-of-the-art facilities and the new home for CanAssist, UVic’s innovative program that transforms the lives of people living with disabilities, will be housed in a building built to LEED gold certification standard. Among its environmentally-friendly features is the first campus geothermal heating system and a centerpiece glass tower that acts as a chimney and releases hot air at the top.

Temperatures are on Allen’s mind too as CARSA’s multiple studios have individual heat controls so sweating cyclists and tranquil yoga enthusiasts can each work out in their own climates. The expanded facilities can host classes as early as 6:45 a.m. for the pre-work crowd and more mid-day classes for those who want a lunch-hour workout.

CanAssist Executive Director Robin Syme expects her organization’s location adjacent to CARSA’s main entrance will raise awareness about CanAssist’s work and the importance of inclusion. “CanAssist is delighted to be working with the Vikes and community partners to identify new opportunities for individuals with a range of abilities to participate in athletic and recreational programming,” she says.

New generations of athletes will train and compete in CARSA, continuing UVic’s tradition of excellence in varsity sports. The 2,100 seats in the high performance gym surround the action on the court, making game nights more exciting than ever.

The climbing centre, March 2015.

With the formal conclusion of the major gifts fundraising campaign, the funding for CARSA, which replaces aging and outdated facilities, has been finalized. University funds, membership fees, donor and sponsorship support, and parking fees will pay for the $77-million project that includes significant renovation to the McKinnon Building, providing much needed teaching and research space for the School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, and a new parkade.

The fundraising campaign raised $4.5 million, lower than the original goal of $18 million that was set in 2011. Fundraising for CARSA was new territory. Unlike most previous capital projects, it did not involve government funding, presented fewer naming options and was happening at a time when organizations and individuals were still recovering from a global economic slowdown.

An alternative financial plan is in place with the funds to come from UVic’s investment properties and the existing capital priorities reserve fund. This will not significantly impact any planned UVic capital projects and no construction funding will come from academic budgets or research funding. As well, the shortfall in fundraising will be offset by a portion of the expected proceeds from the sale of Dunsmuir Lodge—a property with a history of supporting health and wellness.

Registration for CARSA’s inaugural spring and summer programs is now open and the full range of options are available at

“Everyone is welcome to visit CARSA at a community open house May 2 and 3. People can come and try out a program for free those days,” says Allen. “There will be so much more for people to access than there’s been in the past. It’s going to be fantastic for staff, students and faculty and the broader community.”